Darren Matthew Manzella-Lapeira

Darren Matthew Manzella-Lapeira, 36, of Rochester, N.Y., and formerly of Portland, N.Y., passed away Thursday evening, Aug. 29, 2013, in Rochester, N.Y., due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.

Darren was born in Dunkirk, N.Y., on Aug. 8, 1977, to Michael and Nancy (Pfisterer) Manzella of Portland, N.Y. He was a 1995 graduate of Brocton Central School where he participated in many sports and activities. After graduating, he attended the West Virginia University where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology.

He then joined the United States Army in 2002 where he served as a medic for two tours of duty overseas during the Iraq War. Darren had recently joined The Army Reserves and was currently serving as a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard until his untimely death.

Darren will be remembered for his heroism in challenging the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy on national television thus becoming the face of LGBT military members before being discharged in 2008 for publicly discussing his sexual identity. In December 2007, Darren had told a “60 Minutes” interviewer from the combat zone in Iraq that he was gay, and had violated the 1993 policy that barred gay service members from disclosing their sexual orientation. The policy was repealed in 2011. Darren said that “he gave voice to the tens of thousands of men and women who serve everyday under the fear of DADT.”

As our New York State Sen. Chuck Schumer said “Darren will always be remembered as someone who had the courage both to fight for his country and the courage to change it.”

Darren was currently working at the Canandaigua Veterans Crisis Call Center as a counselor.

Darren was also recently married on July 5, 2013, at a ceremony in Rochester, N.Y., to Javier Lapeira-Soto. He also greatly loved and enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Darren also had a great interest and love of traveling and was fortunate to see many parts of the world.

Besides his husband Javier Manzella-Lapeira and his parents, Mike and Nancy Manzella, he is survived by two brothers Brandon (D’Arsie) Manzella of Fredonia, N.Y., and Andrew (Amber) Manzella of Charlotte, N.C.; his paternal grandmother, Fredora Manzella of Portland, N.Y.; one nephew, Felix; and two nieces: Rosemary and Olivia.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, at 11 a.m. from St. Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church, 12 Central Ave., in Brocton, N.Y., where a Christian burial service will be celebrated. The Deacon Bill Boneberg will officiate. Full military honors will be provided by the Army National Guard in conjunction with The American Legion John W. Dill Post 434 of Brocton, N.Y. Interment will take place at Portland Evergreen Cemetery.

The family will receive friends from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, at the Morse Funeral Home, 51 Highland Ave. Brocton, N.Y.